Blended Roles

Question:

I’m looking to advance my role as a legal assistant and am interested in taking on paralegal duties. Any advice for taking my career to the next level?

Answer:

With law firms looking to rein in costs while increasing value to clients, no wonder the roles of paralegal and legal secretary are evolving. The boundaries between these jobs are quickly becoming blurrier. In fact, 66 percent of lawyers polled for a recent Robert Half Legal survey said hybrid paralegal/legal secretary positions are more common today than two years ago. And 15 percent of respondents said they plan to add more of these types of legal professionals in the next 12 months. 

So, how can you take advantage of this hiring trend? Well, if you’re a legal support specialist in search of a career boost, get ready to broaden and deepen your skill set. Here are four areas to focus on: 

 

1. Tech skills 

 

eDiscovery is hot. Whether you prefer working in a law firm or general counsel’s office, there’s an acute need in practically every practice area for the proper acquisition and handling of electronically stored information. Even if your organization outsources some or all of this function, someone in-house has to oversee the process. Other technology proficiencies you need for hybrid paralegal/legal secretary roles: 

 

·         A good understanding of e-filing at the state/provincial and federal levels 

·         Intermediate to advanced proficiency in Microsoft Office and, increasingly, Google Drive 

·         Knowledge of common billing software and case management systems, such as TeamConnect 

·         Experience with communication and collaboration tools like Skype for Business and Cisco WebEx. 

 

2. Editorial skills 

 

From contracts and briefs to summaries and discovery responses, a significant portion of the hybrid paralegal/legal secretary’s duties is to prepare legal documents. This role also requires writing, editing and proofreading a variety of emails, memos and letters. Some support professionals also handle advertising and marketing. For these reasons, you should have not only an excellent command of legal terminology but also the ability to write clearly and flawlessly. Depending on the local market, bilingual abilities also are highly marketable.

 
3. Organizational skills 

 

Many paralegals and legal secretaries, especially in small and midsize organizations, manage all elements of the workplace. Typical tasks include meeting scheduling, filing, billing, purchasing, coordinating travel — in general, ensuring the office runs smoothly and that the partner or general counsel is well supported. You would need to do all this on top of your legal workload. To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, have a solid time management system in place.

 

4. Legal research 

 

Legal secretaries are being asked to do more, including conducting research — previously the duty of paralegals and first-year associates. This means you may be asked to go through case histories and legal journals to find applicable laws to assist a legal team. Two commonly used platforms are LexisNexis and Westlaw. To succeed in this blended role, seek out tutorials and training in how to use these and other platforms. 
 
Benefits of the blended paralegal/legal secretary role 

 
There’s no doubt law firms are restructuring their staffing to improve efficiency and reduce billing rates. But employers aren’t asking staff to do more for the same rates as before: As hybrid legal support professionals get more responsibilities, they’re also seeing a healthy bump in compensation. Take a look at the following salaries at the midpoint or 50th percentile, taken from the Robert Half Legal 2018 Salary Guide: 

 

Paralegal/legal assistant (hybrid): $50,000 

Senior paralegal/legal assistant (hybrid): $69,500 

 

The hottest practice areas today are litigation, business and commercial law, real estate, compliance, and healthcare. Legal support professionals with experience in these high-growth specialties are likely to earn more than these starting salaries. 

 

Looking for greater job satisfaction and a higher paycheck? Take your legal career up a notch by pursuing a hybrid paralegal/legal secretary position. 
 

Looking for greater job satisfaction and a higher paycheck? Take your legal career up a notch by pursuing a hybrid paralegal/legal secretary position.